Sunday, June 2, 2013

After a long wait, a week of splendour: Paeonia anomala

In-bud 6 years after the seeds were sown - Meet the Anomalous Peony
The other half of the Home Bug Gardener team likes peonies and the half that does most of the planting is always happy to do what he can to make her happy. Hybrid peony varieties are available by the hundreds and there is even a Canadian Peony Society that promotes their use. 
Formica podzolica on colourful, sugary hybrid peony sepals
Hybrid peonies have extrafloral nectaries, as do the species from which they are derived, so they are somewhat insect-friendly if you like ants, the only insects that seem to use the nectaries. 
Paeonia anomala  - a species peony (ant on bud in left background)
Hybrid peony flowers are very showy, but don't seem to be especially attractive to bees. Still, we have two hybrid varieties based on different species, Paeonia officinalis ‘Anemoniflora Rosea’ and Paeonia lactiflora ‘Dandy Dan’, planted near the front porch and they add a week or two of colour and a summer of attractive foliage to the Home Bug Garden.
A rose by any other name may be a peony - Meet Dandy Dan
Hybrid peonies tend to be expensive and can be floppy, but seem to have no problem with the Zone 3 winter. Inattention seems to work well too and other than cutting down the dead stalks in the spring, no care seems to be required.
Sterile staminodes instead of stamens in the Paeonia officinalis hybrid
For those who become obsessed with a kind of garden flower, a yearning to collect the species from which the hybrids have been derived is often manifest. This can be driven by interest or snobbishness or both, but for those interested in urban insect conservation there are valid reasons to eschew some hybrids. Often the spectacular display of a hybrid comes at the cost of functionality, such as the conversion of stamens to sterile staminodes in some peony hybrids.
Functional, but still attractive - Paeonia anomala
Well, to make a long story longer, hybrid peonies went into the Home Bug Garden in 2005 and by 2007 the Home Bug Gardener had decided to grow a species peony from seed. The Devonian Botanical Garden has a famous collection of hybrid peonies and also a collection of hardy species peonies. Seeds of one such species were available to supporting members; and so, seven pots with seeds of Paeonia anomala went out to overwinter in the Fall of 2007. In the Spring of 2008, though, not a single seedling emerged. Alas and alack, but no sense in wasting the soil in the pots which was recycled around the garden. Then in May of 2009, Anomalous Peony seedlings began sprouting all over the Home Bug Garden! 
Worth a 6 year wait?  Paeonia anomala
Now, four more years latter they are in bloom - and entirely through serendipity (which is how I prefer to view my bungled attempt to germinate peony seeds) - the Home Bug Garden woodland was graced by four scattered clumps of blooms of attractive magenta to pink flowers above feathery foliage. Given the late and cold Spring of 2013, it is hard to say when one might expect them to bloom in a more normal year, but this year the plant in the most favourable spot started opening on 20 May and one in the most shaded spot still has one flower in bloom (2 June). The hybrid peonies are still in bud, so I suppose the Anomalous Peony extends our peony season, and more importantly for the HBG pollinators, provides another early spring source of pollen and nectar.

1 comment:

  1. How fortunate for you they all decided to put their heads up--eventually! I love checking out species plants. These peonies are lovely.